Not even two years after its 50th anniversary, Doctor Who is now celebrating its (second) tenth birthday, a scenario normally reserved for the timey-wimey plots of the show itself.
Of course, 26 March 2015 marks a decade since Doctor Who returned to our screens; bringing with it a brand new Doctor and companion, reaching out to new viewers, reigniting the love of fans of old, and finally relieving the wait of the ones who never gave up hope.
Although it comes as a surprise to anyone know knows me now, I’m actually in the first camp, mainly because I wasn’t born until 1986. Prior to 2005, my experience of Doctor Who was limited to a rainy day spent in a toy museum, and waking up in the middle of a surreal period drama which, at the time, I thought was some kind of Blackadder I hadn’t come across before. (I have since deduced that it was an episode of ‘Ghostlight’.)
How times change. I am currently sat in my lounge, the complete (as it can be) collection of Doctor Who DVDs on my custom bookcase, figurines proudly displayed alongside them. My head is full of all sorts of Doctor Who related trivia, from the TV show to comics and Big Finish audio plays.
So, how did this all happen? When did a show I’d previously only heard of in passing become such a large part of my life? Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint when something or someone entered your life; the first time you spoke to a friend, or the first time you heard a band you came to love.
But with Doctor Who I know exactly when it all started…
It’s the Easter weekend, and I’m on a holiday that would become complicated due to divorced parents and the conflict that comes with it. I remember knowing that Doctor Who was coming back, and making a point of sitting down to watch it was my dad, sat in a cold caravan in a wet field somewhere far away from home.
Looking back, I had no real expectations. Doctor Who to me was no different from Dad’s Army or Fawlty Towers, television of a bygone age shown on digital channels every now and again. I enjoyed it, I remember that much, but was very much left confused by the Next Week trail; perhaps I was expecting the series to be an ongoing story of the Nestene invasion of Earth, with this being the first strike.
But no, that was it. 45 minutes of running, explosions and plastic creatures. Next week, something else!
In context, I guess this makes sense. I hadn’t really had any exposure to shows like that in the past; almost everything was serialised. So, week on week I travelled somewhere new with the Doctor; an angry but kind man, his guilt becoming apparent with each episode. Again, having no context of previous Doctors, I didn’t know what to expect, but Christopher Eccleston spoke to me.
It had been a rough few years, and I carried so much of that on my shoulders, just like the Ninth Doctor. I have always maintained that ‘Dalek’ was a turning point, both for me and the Doctor. There was the man I identified with, who was holding on to so much pain and anger, losing control and shouting at the world.
He tortures a Dalek with no remorse; they cost him everything so it was his right to exact revenge. And I realised that on a personal level, that’s what I had been doing to; lashing out because I was in pain.
As the season went on, my interest in it just continued to grow. Whether it be watching a recording of ‘The Empty Child’ late at night and being ever so slightly terrified, or being convinced that Rose was really dead during ‘Bad Wolf’ (a world before spoilers, for me!), I knew I was hooked.
All too soon, the season ended and it was down to the perfectly timed Ninth Doctor novels to give me my fix. Eventually, I finished them, and my Doctor Who content for the year was done.
That is of course, until I received my Christmas present of both the DVD boxset, and a new Doctor…
It had been a year of change for me, moving to University in the previous September, and now I was to get a new Doctor too. I hadn’t really heard of David Tennant prior to his appearance in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
‘The Christmas Invasion’ hadn’t given me much to go on, other than to realise just how drastic a regeneration could be. The second season of the new show demonstrated this to a whole new generation of viewers, the Tenth Doctor being a fun loving character in contrast to his mainly dour predecessor.
It was this year that I recall becoming aware of the world of spoilers, and trying to guess what was coming next based on episode credits and other such titbits. For example, the absence of Noel Clarke on the cast list for ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ lead me to conclude that Mickey wouldn’t be in the TARDIS at the end of ‘The Age of Steel’, several weeks before broadcast. This was also the point that I began to become interested in the shows history, ‘School Reunion’ being a particularly poignant episode for me even back then.
Whilst the season wasn’t as perfect to me as the last, I still found something to enjoy in every episode. At this point, Doctor Who was still something I enjoyed on my own, and would be for the next few years.
By now, Doctor Who was another annual event for me. As Easter arrived, so came the Doctor with, for the first time for me, a brand new companion. Whilst my view on the character has since changed, Martha Jones bought a fresh dynamic to the show, particularly in ‘Smith and Jones’. I still stand by ‘Human Nature’ / The Family of Blood’ and ‘Blink’ as two of my favourite Doctor Who stories, and whilst the performances are strong, it was the writing and direction that began to stand out to me.
Aside the aforementioned episodes, the loose trilogy of episodes that make up the end of Season 3 are some of my favourites. ‘Last of the Time Lords’ may be bombastically cheesy at points, but for me, that can’t take away the magnificence of the reveal and demise of the Master, starting in ‘Utopia’.
Unfortunately I had been given an indication of what was coming, but the moment that the fob watch opens is still one that gets my heart racing. (And would give me great delight in showing the episode to my wife years later, who didn’t know what was coming.)
Outside of Doctor Who, I was still living in an insular geeky bubble. My second year housemates were not fans of the show, along with my girlfriend at the time, so I kept my interest in the show to myself.
That, however, would soon change…
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